A House and Senate conference committee has finished its work hammering out a proposed fix to the student transfer law that threatens to bankrupt some Missouri schools.
The proposal would let students in failing schools in unaccredited districts first transfer to better performing schools within that district. If no room is available in those schools, they could transfer to neighboring districts or charter schools. Students in schools that don’t achieve accreditation for three years could also transfer to nonreligious private schools, with local tax dollars covering tuition. That could happen earlier if approved by a public vote.
Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal (D-University City) says the legislation leaves some children out.
“When we decided to only allow children who are in unaccredited buildings in unaccredited districts [transfer,] I think that’s limiting children,” she says. “There are kids who are in unaccredited buildings in accredited districts who are totally ignored in this bill as of now.”
The legislation does not cover transportation costs for students traveling to new schools. Representative Rick Stream (R-Kirkwood) says that could be a barrier for some parents wanting to get their children into better schools immediately, which lawmakers have said is a goal. He would like to have seen transportation covered in the bill, but says it was removed in compromise with the Senate.
“It does certainly limit their options to transfer out of the district to another public school district,” says Stream. “But, we do have in there now the charter options and the private school option in their district, and if our goal is to try to keep students in the district but in a better educational environment, those two options are now there.”
Stream considers whether the updated bill can pass the House.
“We had 91 votes to start with. We may have gained a few from St. Charles. We may have lost a few from the rural areas on the private option vote being constrained, so we’ll see,” says Stream.
The conference committee chairman, Senator David Pearce (R-Warrensburg) says he’s confident as the legislation goes back to both chambers to consider.
“Right now a lot of people aren’t pleased with it,” says Pearce, “so that means we’ve got a pretty good compromise.
Stream doesn’t think the House could muster enough votes to override Governor Jay Nixon (D) if he decides to veto the bill. Nixon has said he can not support anything that involves tax dollars going to private schools.